As a young girl, Carterton-based artist Rebekah Farr spent untold hours in the green room of Auckland's Mercury Theatre, where her father Don Farr worked as an actor. 'I remember one night watching him transforming slowly into an old man for a play. That was a really memorable experience for a child of about five!'
It was only at a recent talk at Aratoi, where Farr’s show 'Drift' is currently on display, that someone pointed out the connection between her family's theatre background and the mysterious, compelling characters in her paintings.
She agrees that creating personas - in this case an animal / human hybrid - is her way of telling stories and conveying emotions in her art. 'The paintings become more interesting to me if they are like little plays, and the figures in them are different characters, not just portraits,' she says.
Across the 'Drift' series, she moves between characters that represent 'partly me and partly my horse,' creating a unique personal symbolism to explore the ideas of travelling with various kinds of baggage, and the uncertainty and melancholy of a vague, shifting landscape.
She says it's different from her work as an animator and illustrator where she had to create characters that are either one gender or the other: 'You can't have a girl with short hair and trousers, you have to make her obviously a girl, so the audience can read her as such.'
'In this series of paintings, I keep it somewhere in the middle because I like the mystery of androgynous characters'.
This also means the figures become more broadly relatable to people, and the idea of 'the journey' moves onto a universal level.
Farr considered a career in acting, then took a fashion design course in Melbourne with a view to working in costuming in theatre. She changed tack when she realized the limited job opportunities in the field at the time, but arguably her interest in character continued as an illustrator and animator. 'I was surprised when someone pointed out the theatre influence but now I can see it as a thread running right through my work,' she says.
'Drift' is on display at Aratoi until 2 October.
Caption: Paintings by Rebekah Farr from left: 'Last Minute Nerves'; 'Rome may burn (self portrait)' and 'Uncertainty'.